President Obama took a victory lap on Friday after new jobs numbers showed the unemployment rate falling below 5 percent for the first time in eight years.
Obama touted the best unemployment figures of his presidency during a surprise appearance in the White House press briefing room.
“The United States of America right now has the strongest, most durable economy in the world,” he said. “I know that's still inconvenient for Republican stump speeches as their doom and despair tour continues in New Hampshire.
"I guess you can’t please everybody.”
The jobless rate ticked down from 5 to 4.9 percent in January, the lowest level since February 2008, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But the economy added only 151,000 jobs, below the fast pace at the end of 2015 and short of economists’ expectations.
Asked why he hasn’t received the credit he feels he deserves, the president acknowledged the public remains anxious about the state of the economy.
Many individuals feel they are not better off than they were eight years ago; wages only started to gradually increase six months ago and have not kept pace with corporate profits, he said.
“The argument I’m making here and will continue to make during the course of this year is that we should be proud of the progress we’ve made,” he said.
He compared economic growth to his workouts as a 54-year-old, saying it’s important to stay disciplined and not “go off and have a big double bacon cheeseburger” — an analogy to GOP economic policies.
He said Republicans running to succeed him have been “running down the economy” and don't have a viable plan to keep the economy afloat.
Obama is seeking to cement his legacy as a president who saved the economy from collapse after the Great Recession. With the 2016 presidential campaign well underway, he’s also making the case that Democrats deserve a third term in the White House.
When Obama took office in January 2009, the unemployment rate stood at 7.8 percent — by October, it peaked at 10 percent. Since then, the administration has touted 71 straight months of private-sector job growth, the longest streak on record.
Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who was the GOP vice presidential nominee in 2012, said last month the president should not claim credit for a recovering economy.
“Wages are stagnant ... 46 million people are still living in poverty today, among the highest poverty rates in a generation,” he said. “These are not the signs of a recovery, these are not the signs of a strong economy. These are signs of a weak economy.”